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Deputy Director, Group Head of News

Contract Type
Public Sector
circa £80,000
Expiry Date
This is an exciting opportunity to take on a key leadership role in Defra’s group communications team at a time of significant change.

Job Description

Reporting to the Group Director of Communications, you will be responsible for leading an integrated press and media team providing high quality advice and media relations support across the Defra Group of organisations. 

The successful candidate will work directly to the Secretary of State, Ministers, the Permanent Secretary and group CEOs. They will provide expert communications advice on the benefits and presentational risks of decisions and policies and use strong political judgement to shape handling for announcements and breaking news. During incidents you will be able to lead your team to provide an expert crisis communications function.

The communications challenge across the Defra Group is one of the most complex and exciting opportunities in public sector communications. You will be joining at a unique time of change as Defra responds to EU exit and goes through a wide-ranging transformation programme, which includes the creation one of the Government’s first group-wide communications team.

This is a challenging role. You will be expected to lead the team in using a range of media channels to deliver a complex policy and operational communications strategy. The work will range from fast-moving
incident support during flooding and animal or plant health disease outbreaks, to Defra group policy priorities such improving the environment we are handing on to the next generation and shaping gricultural and fisheries policies as we leave the EU. This work is vital to the UK economy and society and is global in its reach.

The post-holder will ensure that Defra is able to communicate these priorities effectively and accurately across all relevant media with real impact.

The post holder will have experience of leading a team of media officers and running a high quality, proactive and reactive media management and news planning service, monitoring news across all platforms on behalf of the department. Responding rapidly to fast-moving events and providing senior cover in an out-of-hours duty rota.

The role requires strong internal leadership and experience of managing change. They will be responsible for transforming the team into a single proactive cross-group media operation as part of a Defra Group Communications team.

Key activities
Responsibilities include:

  • Strong track record of providing advice to Ministers and senior leaders across organisations in the Defra Group on news management – from tactical media handling to ensuring that group and ministerial priorities are delivered and advanced through proactive and strategic use of media channels;
  •  Close and proactive working with private offices, Special Advisers and the broader department and ALBs in order to ensure Ministers receive the best possible media handling advice;
  • Ensure appropriate alignment with the wider government external communication priorities, working alongside No.10, the Cabinet Office, HM Treasury and other government departments;
  • Managing crisis communications for Defra Group as required, working closely with the Local Communications team during incident to provide delivery body leaders and ministers with consistent external communications advice;
  • Providing active and visible leadership at all times;
  • Supporting the development and implementing of the Defra Group Communications strategy, maintaining external media communications on a proactive footing, and attending weekly business meetings of Defra’s ministerial and senior management team; 
  • Building and maintaining effective working relationships with key journalists covering the work of Defra and its agencies, and with counterparts in key external partner organisations;
  • Representing Defra at GCS groupings, such as the Head of News Group;
  • Work with the Group Director of Communications and Transformation
  • Team to design and implement the proposed Defra Group media team; and
  • Act as visible leader and advocate for the Defra Group Communications, embodying its values and behaviours, and building on the diversity, talent and skills of team members.


Person Specification

It is essential in your supporting statement that you provide, in so far as you are able, evidence and proven examples against each of the selection criteria below under Part One. These responses will be further developed and discussed with those candidates invited for interview. Those under Part Two will be tested with those invited to preliminary interview.

Part One

  • understanding and with extensive experience in a news-related role at a senior level in a complex environment.
  • An inspiring, confident and empowering leader who is able to provide visible, strong leadership that can motivate, engage and get the best out of people.
  • Evidence of building credibility and relationships at Ministerial / Board level in order to provide strategic communications and reputation advice based on professional expertise. 
  • Excellent political and news awareness demonstrated through sound judgement and the ability to drive communications approaches from the overall organisational priorities. 
  • Evidence of leading a team under sustained pressure, managing competing priorities and changing deadlines while supporting the team.
  • Experience of providing an expert crisis communications function during incidents.
  • Evidence of leading a high-performing team through a significant programme of change.



  • Experience of managing communications within a complex delivery network
  • Experience of managing high-profile campaigns.

Part Two
Key competencies for the role:

An ability to demonstrate appropriate ability against the following competencies:


  • Setting direction: seeing the big picture and changing and improving
  • Engaging people: collaborating and partnering and leading and communicating
  • Delivering results: delivering at pace and managing a quality service.


How to Apply

To apply for this post you will need to submit the following documentation to us by no later than noon on Monday 25th September 2017:

  1. A CV setting out your career history, with key responsibilities and achievements. Please ensure you have provided reasons for any gaps within the last two years;
  2. 2. Around two pages explaining how you consider your personal skills, qualities and experience provide evidence of your suitability for the role,with particular reference to the criteria in the person specification;
  3. A completed Diversity Monitoring Form (Annex A). All monitoring data will be treated in the strictest confidence, will not be provided to the selection panel and will not affect your application in any way. The completion of the Diversity Monitoring Form includes the option ‘prefer not to say’; and 
  4. A completed Candidate Supporting Information Form (Annex B). 


If relevant, please also submit: 

  • A completed Guaranteed Interview Scheme Form (Annex C) if applying under this scheme.


Applications should be sent to: ensuring that you quote the following reference number 930231.

All submissions sent to the above email address will receive an automated response. In the event that you do not receive confirmation of receipt when submitting your application please contact us on 0207 932 4236.